Book Review: The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is a love story set against the backdrop of Hungary and France during World War II. Based loosely on the author’s grandfather’s life, this 600-page novel is both tender and horrific, which, in my experience, usually makes for a good read. And make no mistake, The Invisible Bridge is one, big, fabulous, sweeping read.
As Europe races towards war, Andras Levi, a young Hungarian Jew, wins a scholarship and travels to Paris to study architecture. Through his classes and his job at a local theater, Andras meets a fascinating cast of characters who become entwined in his daily routines and end up forever changing the course of his life.
During a failed blind date, Andras ends up falling in love with the girl’s mother, Klara, who is 9 years his senior. The two become swept up in a passionate affair, and in time she reveals the dark secret which forced her to flee Hungary sixteen years earlier. As you can imagine, theirs is not an easy relationship, and the subplots and other twists and turns throughout the book do not make it any easier. Eventually, Andras looses his student visa and is forced to return to Hungary where he is conscripted into one the all-Jewish work organizations which did the front line work for the Hungarian army. Ms. Orringer then follows Andras into the horror, tragedy, grief and despair of the Hungarian Jewish experience during the Holocaust.
Throughout the book, Andras’ remarkable ability to land on his feet make him an incredibly compelling character. He is almost larger-than-life in all of his goodness. I will be thinking about Andras for a long time to come. And if the character of Andras seems a little too good to be true sometimes, it’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to encounter an honest-to-goodness good guy (especially when he’s based on your grandfather!).